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#HailMail: Redskins Enter Week 8 In First Place

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The Redskins enter Week 8 in first place in the NFC East. Redskins.com's Jake Kring-Schreifels answers fan questions as the team prepares for the Giants.

Question: Are there any trade opportunities for the Redskins? Obviously a WR would help. A nice WR would make us a lock playoff team.

Other than trading for Alex Smith this offseason, the Redskins haven’t made too many trades in the recent past. The philosophy of building through the draft is starting come to fruition with the emergence of a young defensive line built on picks from the last three years.

But the Redskins find themselves in unique territory after six games – in first place with a game and a half lead over their opponents. As it looks right now, they have the opportunity to continue their win streak against the Giants and rattle off a couple of more victories in the coming weeks. The win now mentality is why the Redskins brought in Alex Smith in the first place. In other words, if a trade before Oct. 30 can net them another key piece to an improving team, I don’t see why they shouldn’t pull the trigger.

"I mean, you never know what could be out there but I feel good about the players we have," head coach Jay Gruden said this week. I think the depth that we have is solid and I like where we're at. If a great opportunity comes up to get a player, that’s fine, but if we don’t get anybody, I'm great with the guys we have.”

Since Amari Cooper is now on the Cowboys, and since the Giants began to unload some of their starters on defense, the options for the Redskins are limited. It’s hard to tell who the front office thinks would be a worthy addition, but since you brought up wide receiver, what about Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas? It was reported that Denver wasn’t actively looking to unload him somewhere, but that they’d still be open to the possibility before Tuesday for the right price.

I’m not so certain that acquiring him or a player of similar value would make the Redskins a lock for the playoffs. Alex Smith is still struggling to find a connection with wide receivers he’s known since OTAs thanks to injuries and other setbacks, and the offense wouldn’t immediately become dynamic the way it has in the past. If you’re on the fence about whether a trade, at least at that position, will happen, listen to Gruden’s language here and assess yourself.

“I think guys have stepped in, [Michael] Floyd and [Brian] Quick and those guys have done a good job. We don’t really have an issue where we say 'oh my gosh, we have to get somebody', so I feel good about the guys we have,” he said.

Question: Will Alex Smith need to play better to continue our winning ways?

I think the very simple answer to this question is yes, and Alex Smith would agree.

Every quarterback wants to improve his game, but it’s been clear through six games that Smith has left a good amount of plays on the field that he would normally make.

“In the last two weeks, I've had great opportunities to get some points there at the half at least to give ourselves a chance and it didn’t get done the last two weeks for different reason,” Smith said. “But certainly, I felt like missed opportunities out there by us on offense. So yeah, look it's something that no doubt [we] look to improve on for sure."

Two of those missed opportunities he identified as the incompletion to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, in which he overthrew his target on a bootleg to the right. The other, he said, was a pass in the second half to Michael Floyd, which the wide receiver caught just out of bounds. Both of those throws needed to be better and would have, at least in Sprinkle’s case, put points on the board.

For the past two weeks, the Redskins have escaped with victories thanks to the defense coming up big on the final drive. They’ve also got some luck, which is a natural part of any NFL season. Those breaks have come for Washington so far, but they could easily trend the other way if they continue to put themselves into tight corners at the ends of games.

The way out would be to start scoring in the second half of games. Right now, the offense ranks 25th with 21 points per game, and of the 13 total touchdowns the Redskins have scored, only one has come in the second half, a fourth quarter four-yard rush from Smith.

As Smith continues to progress with his rotating cast of targets, some of those issues should subside. On the opposite hand, while the Redskins haven’t been too explosive with Smith at the helm, they’ve severely limited their amount of turnovers. The defense has made it fair share, leading to a positive turnover ratio that has tipped the scale in the Redskins’ favor. More production from the offense – a couple more connections in the passing game – will help put games away earlier.

"I think the exciting thing is that certainly there is a lot of room for improvement for us out there, especially offensively as a unit, that we've left some plays out there for sure,” Smith said. “Encouragingly, when we start hitting some of those, obviously we will be that much better."

Question: Travelling from UK for game, can I expect a win, are Giants as bad as they look?

Hi Nick, glad you’re making it across the pond.

I won’t jinx this team and give you a definite answer here, but this is a game the Redskins should win. The Giants have started to unload some defensive players from the roster – starters Eli Apple and Damon Harrison – but as head coach Jay Gruden said, a couple of plays, here and there, and they could also be 4-2 like the Redskins.

The players and coaches at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park have all been saying the right things this week. This is not a team to sleep on, running back Adrian Peterson said, who referenced the fact that the team lost to the Colts in Week 2. “We’re focused, we’re locked in,” running Peterson added.

“When you turn on the tape, they’ve only just got blown out by two teams really, when you look at it,” cornerback Josh Norman said. “They’re all in every game, and it’s the NFC East, everybody’s tough. They’ve got a special one up on them and they’ve got a special one up on us.”

This is still a team with Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr., playmakers that can change the game with a few missed tackles or coverages. The Redskins defense has played admirably the last couple of weeks, limiting both Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott to under 35 yards. They’ll have a better advantage with Eli Manning under center, not having to worry too much about him evading the pocket and scrambling for extra yardage, like they’ve been used to against Cam Newton and Dak Prescott.

Sunday’s matchup should be a good time to get the offense clicking. New York’s defense, now without their best run stopper, has allowed 26.4 points per game, good for 25th in the league. They’ve also allowed 7.3 yards per pass and 4.3 yards per rush, and if the Redskins get back playmakers Chris Thompson and Paul Richardson Jr. back in action, Alex Smith and the offense should start to get back into the right flow.

So, let’s just say be cautiously optimistic. The Redskins have a chance to be 5-2. That shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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